LBGTQ – it’s hard to remember what each initial stands for but they add up to a cultural change which claims that gender is a matter of choice. The choice is not necessarily permanent: one may simply change it as perceived or required. I read recently of a policewo/man who it was reported could change gender day by day. The Church is unsurprisingly unhappy about all this: “Make and female he created them.” And while it insists that respect should be given in all cases, history tells us that severe persecution was once the condign answer. Other denominations, Christian or otherwise, take even stronger views. In some communities homosexual activity is a capital offence.
It has been going on for a long time. Recently I spent an afternoon with an old friend. I recall him as a cuddly five year old girl who used to leap up and hug me whenever we met, usually outside church after Mass. Now he is large, strong, and be-bristled; if he cuddled me now he might squeeze me to death by mistake – and a charming and kinder man it would be hard to meet.
We instinctively identify gender through the obvious characteristics of biology. Easy-peasy. In more difficult cases a list of comparative characteristics would, in the old days, be used for a final decision. Now it may simply be claiming so. Having said that, we should remember that in some instances the situation can be complicated. Children who have routinely been assigned gender at birth do sometimes develop psychological and physical characteristics consistent with the opposite gender, or somewhere in between. The proper diagnosis and treatment of such children, both parental and professional, is essential to help the child to cope with the situation and to develop into a confident adult according to their choice.
But the apparent ability to choose or change one’s own gender appears to run counter to what we have assumed to be permanent differences between the sexes, which have come about through evolution to ensure that the reproduction of our species can continue. The female would need to seek mating but would have built-in concern that the right mate was accepted. She would be open to sexual approaches but would only respond to males who would apparently make good fathers: capacity to provide, which might well include power, stability and care. Such qualities would maximise the chances of the children. It is significant that women tend to be most open to sexual advances when they are ovulating.
The male would ideally spread his seed as widely as possible. Maximum fertilisations is the goal. “Men only want one thing” say many women. And that’s true, and they should welcome the wide choice they get as a result of men being made that way. But he is especially drawn to the attractive because symmetry tends towards health. The ratio between waist and hips plus good breasts all indicate good physical mothers – although this may not be the man’s immediate consideration.
But the situation is changing. We now know how to separate sexual engagement from conception. Formerly the two were a function of each other but, over a few decades, we have separated sex for the sake of reproduction and sex for the sake of sex. It is a revolution. It is not my purpose here to argue a moral case on either side but just to note that something at the heart of the human race has changed. And all change has consequences. We might in our discussion try to tease out what these consequences, good or bad, may be.
People of my older generation find the new thinking very odd to understand. It is taken for granted that sexual intercourse is an appropriate expression of relationship – whether the relationship is recent or of longstanding. No doubt two people who are not averse to each other use it as a form of recreation just as we might invite someone for a meal. Marriage has by no means disappeared and for many it is seen as the right relationship for reproduction. But although it is much more stable than living together without marriage, it has a high breakdown rate. And of course gender is no longer a factor. If you feel heterosexual today and homosexual tomorrow, take your pick. Follow your feelings for there are no rules.
We have seen great changes in our lifetime – from nuclear weapons to a digital universe. But make no mistake the sexual revolution will prove the greatest of all. Hold on to the roundabout, it’s going to be quite a ride.